Monday, 7 May 2012

CC41 utility furniture

It’s funny how the rationing of supplies like wood during WW2 actually resulted in some rather nice furniture. Lasting (according to Wikipedia) from 1942 to 1952, utility furniture was the British government’s way of providing sturdy furnishings without waste. Meaning materialistic people like me couldn’t ruin the war effort!

I can only imagine how hard it was for homemakers though, knowing no amount of money or hard work would earn you the furniture you wanted. Of course, it wasn’t the worst that could happen – plenty of people had their much loved possessions bombed to smithereens.
Anyway. Utility furniture is particularly interesting because it was designed by a government-appointed committee, with the approved plans sent off to manufacturers all over the UK so they could have a crack at it. It’s therefore pretty hard to describe or choose one picture to sum up utility furniture, and I’m sure I won’t like every piece I see.

However, what I’d call ‘typical utility furniture’ has a minimal modesty to it that’s really appealing. Obviously things like Bauhaus and modernism had paved the way already, but perhaps it wouldn’t have caught on without that element of necessity. When rationing ended, the clean lines, no frills and practical sturdiness would last for decades – as I can see in my vintage furniture from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

It’s easy to imagine that rationing, the Blitz and austerity furniture made people really appreciate their character-laden heirlooms and hand-me-downs. So, as well as introducing the public to the concept of modern furniture, CC41 utility furniture could also be responsible for the attachment and respect we now feel for ‘antiques’. I think I’ll be on the look out for a nice chair.

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